Monday Mayhem: But be sure to look behind the curtain!

Thomas Moran’s The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1872

Good Day Sky Dancers!

The Trumpist regime is sneaking a lot of bad policy in while all of us are focusing on the things the media wants to put on TV,  Trump is definitely feeding our Treasury, our people, and our Country’s gifts of nature to his cronies.  Here’s some links on what the Bureau of Land Management is doing to roll back land and animal protection and  to ensure every bit of nature in the country is turned into oil, gas, and a dust bowl.

From The New Republic: The Trump Official Who Could Obliterate Public Lands.  Bureau of Land Management Director William Perry Pendley believes the oil and gas industry should be allowed to plunder the country’s natural resources.”

Pendley, a 74-year-old former Marine who ran the MSLF from 1981 until his appointment last year at the BLM, pursued Watt’s vision with admirable tenacity and has continued to pursue it in his new office. This month, he greenlighted rampant expansion of oil and gas drilling on previously off-limits areas, including on one million acres in central California. On January 17, he announced the loosening of regulations for the public lands cattle industry, making it easier for livestock operators to violate federal environmental laws and not face consequences. He has sowed chaos at BLM by uprooting long-standing Washington D.C. staff with a forced move of the agency’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, where energy companies rule the roost. The goal, his critics say, is to bring BLM regulators into closer quarters with the oil and gas industry to be more easily captured. In response, staffers in the D.C. quarters have attempted to unionize: The National Treasury Employees Union filed a petition to represent BLM employees with the Federal Labor Relations Authority in December.

Pendley’s actions are accompanied by extremist and inflammatory rhetoric supporting lawlessness on the public lands. Pendley has praised the criminal Cliven Bundy clan, whose infamous armed standoffs against federal land regulators amounted to acts of domestic terrorism. When Bundyite militiamen pointed sniper rifles at BLM law officers in Nevada, in 2014, and took over at gunpoint the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016—in both instances announcing their willingness to kill federal law officers if need be—Pendley cheered in the pages of National Review, reiterating the Bundy family’s crackpot theory that the Constitution forbids federal ownership of land.

In an op-ed published last November in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Pendley stated it is now policy that BLM law officers will defer to self-proclaimed “constitutionalist” county sheriffs who have vowed not to enforce federal environmental laws on public lands. Pendley’s Review-Journal piece was “a dog whistle to the extremists of the anti-public-lands movement,” wrote Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, an environmental nonprofit in Idaho. That’s in part because of the belief system of the “constitutionalist” sheriffs, not mentioned in Pendley’s piece. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which Pendley has long claimed as an ally, declares on its website that “federal agencies now claiming control of land within a state should be drastically downsized and/or dismantled. County sheriffs in these states should take their rightful position and use their authority to assist in the transfer of control of the land.”

Dennis McLane, who was deputy chief of law enforcement at BLM from 1996 to 2003, explained to me how this would shape out on the ground. County sheriffs allied in the CSPOA, he said, would serve as the local vanguard for the evisceration of federal public lands regulations. “In many western counties,” McLane told me, “the sheriffs would use their newfound authority to just ignore the enforcement of federal resource laws.” In other words, it would be a free-for-all of extractive interests engaging in lawless behavior for maximum profits—the vision of James Watt and the MSLF.

Canvas print

O’Neill Butte, Grand Canyon, Thomas Moran 1884

The New York Times Reports that”U.S. Moves Ahead on Development Plans for Utah Monuments Trump Shrank” via Reuters.

The U.S. Interior Department on Thursday finalized land use plans for two Utah national monuments that President Donald Trump shrank soon after taking office, a move environmental groups said would leave cultural sites vulnerable to destruction and boost development in pristine wilderness.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proceeded with the plans despite pending litigation challenging the 2017 proclamation by Trump that slashed the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

BLM officials told reporters in a call that the land use plans for the Grand Staircase-Esclalante monument, as well as 860,000 acres (348,030 hectares) that were excluded from the monument by Trump, were necessary because the existing plan had not been updated in 20 years and that the number of visitors to the area had exploded in that time.

“Implementing these plans means that the BLM can improve visitor services and support local businesses and permitees and help them thrive, help the economy here, all while protecting this great American landscape,” Harry Barber, manager of BLM Utah’s Paria River District, said on the call.

Albert Bierstadt Scenery in the Tetons MABI

Scenery in the Grand Tetons by Albert Bierstadt (MABI 2843) circa 1865 -1870

Nothing is literally sacred.  Not only are lands being pillaged for greedy extraction profiteers but the wall threatens native burials as well as the land.  I’ve seen this park and the ones in Utah as a kid.

The grandeur of the land in the American West is simply unimaginable until you stand on it and look around!  Seeing these natural wonders and parts of our history is the single most humbling experience you can imagine.  You just stand there breathless.  And then, you see your first herd of buffalo, or your first family of mountain goats, or a mother bear and her young! Ever scaled a cliff dwelling or crawled through a Kentucky cave with just an oil lamp?  Seen a geyser erupt, ventured to peer over the deepest part of a canyon cut from water?  Seen water weep over a huge cliff?  I have and I want that experience to be available to every one!

It is so worth keeping for generations ahead and I am so glad that the generations behind me felt the same. This goal to monetize everything is just surreal to me.  From CBS:

A national monument in Arizona, home to rare species and sacred Native American burial sites, is being blown up this week as part of construction for President Trump’s border wall, Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CBS News. “Controlled blasting” inside Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument began this week without consultation from the Native American nation whose ancestral land it affects, according to the congressman whose district includes the reservation.

“There has been no consultation with the nation,” said Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who is the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and whose district contains the reservation and shares 400 miles of border with Mexico.  “This administration is basically trampling on the tribe’s history — and to put it poignantly, it’s ancestry.”

Customs and Border Protection told CBS News that the blasts are in preparation for “new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.”

Image result for Georgia Okeeffe paintings of the desert

Georgia O’Keeffe, My Front Yard, Summer, 1941

But there is more.  Here’s more form the desert areas and again, it’s big energy related.  This is from the LA TImes.

In step with President Trump’s push for more energy development in California’s deserts, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday it wants to transform 22,000 acres of public land in the southern Owens Valley into one of the largest geothermal leasing sites in the state.

The agency has determined that the aquifer deep beneath the surface of the vintage Old West landscape of Rose Valley, about 120 miles north of Los Angeles, is a storehouse of enough volcanically heated water to spur $1 billion in investments and provide 117,000 homes with electricity.

Yet the decision is sure to set off a new water war in an arid part of the eastern Sierra Nevada that is sprinkled with dormant volcanoes, spiky lava beds and rare species, such as desert tortoises.

MABI 6194 "Half Dome" by Carlton Watkins 1861

MABI 6194, “Half Dome” by Carleton Watkins, 1861

Conservation groups are suing the Trumpist Regime.  This is especially true for California.  This is from the NRDC:

Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today challenging the last step in the administration’s plan to allow oil drilling and fracking on more than 1 million acres of public lands and minerals in Central California.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, says the Bureau of Land Management violated federal law by failing to consider fracking’s potential harm to public health and recreation in the region, as well as harm to the climate and possible groundwater and air pollution. The suit also notes the potential for oil-industry-induced earthquakes.

The BLM plan would allow drilling and fracking on public lands across eight counties in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura.

“Trump’s illegal, deeply unjust fracking plan would be a disaster for Central Valley communities, as well as our climate, wildlife and water,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to phase out fracking and oil drilling, not throw open our public lands to polluters. The future of our beautiful state and our children depends on it.”

The Trump administration also plans to allow fracking on an additional 725,500 acres across 11 counties in California’s Central Coast and Bay Area. In October conservation groups filed suit to challenge that decision.

“BLM’s ill-considered plan to fling wide the door to fracking on public lands is yet another assault on California’s efforts to protect its environment and move away from dirty fossil fuels,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Gov. Newsom just announced curbs on oil drilling, but BLM is charging full speed ahead with it. California is trying to find a way to rationally address its limited water supply, and now BLM is greenlighting activities that can contaminate it with toxic chemicals. This federal war on California really needs to stop.” In an expert blog, Alexander further explains the implications of this rash move by the administration.

Animals, historical sites, and our lands are not the only things subject to decimation. Politico reports: “Trump hits Medicaid, food stamps in push to slash domestic spending. He will also ask Congress for a slight spending increase for the Pentagon as he releases his $4.8 trillion budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year.”  Again, the border wall is set to destroy a lot.

Under Trump’s plan, theadministration predicts the federal deficit would shrink to $966 billion next fiscal year and to $261 billion by 2030.That gap between government spending and revenue is forecast to exceed $1 trillion this year.

As with his previous budget proposals, Trump is once again seeking deep and unrealistic cuts to most federal agency budgets, according to the budget summary tables. The cuts are unlikely to be embraced by Congress.

For example, the administration is seeking an 8 percent cut to USDA’s budget over current funding levels. Trump’s plan would cut the Commerce Department by 37 percent, the Education Department by 8 percent, the Energy Department by 8 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services by 9 percent.

The administration is also seeking a 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, a 2 percent cut to the Justice Department, an 11 percent cut to the Labor Department, a nearly 21 percent cut to the State Department and a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The EPA’s budget would see a nearly 27 percent chop, the Army Corps of Engineers would see a 22 percent reduction and the Small Business Administration would see an 11 percent decrease.

On immigration, health care, infrastructure and the deficit, the final budget pitch of Trump’s first term will look much different from the campaign platform he offered four years ago.

The border wall that he promised would be paid for by Mexico is instead being financed by billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars, and the administration’s budget request to Congress is expected to seek even more.

The president’s 2015 promise to protect Medicaid from cuts has been repeatedly ignored, as he has sought to slash some $800 billion over a decade from the health program for low-income Americans. The latest evidence of this came on Saturday, when he wrote on Twitter that the budget proposal “will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare.” He made no mention of protecting Medicaid, even though he had vowed to guard it during his first presidential campaign.

He is also seeking to gut the Affordable Care Act through the courts despite pledging to safeguard one of its key tenets: insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

While it is important to focus on things that remove this abomination from the White House. We cannot ignore what is being pushed through by the white nationalist, radical rightist republican party. Please watch for these actions and write and call your congress critters as required!

New Hampshire votes Tomorrow and CBS Boston has a new poll up putting Amy Klobucher in third.  How far back can these places knock Joe before it’s a TKO?

What’s you reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 

 

 


Monday Reads: It just keeps getting worse

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Hi Sky Dancers!

I really am tired of reading the most depressing news I’ve seen since the Nixon years but it seems that we’re stuck with that for awhile. Why is it that each Republican administration since Eisenhower is comprised of exponentially worse policies and people?  It’s called Public Service you dimwits!  Not Public Grifting!

I’ll try not to dwell on it but there are some really awful things happening of which you must be aware.  The Russian Junta in the White House is killing off the EPA and much of the Interior Department.  Science continues to be under attack and replaced by raping and pillaging. The EPA has dismissed half of its Scientific Advisers. The Interior Department has suspended more than 200 advisory panels.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are overhauling a slew of outside advisory boards that inform how their agencies assess the science underpinning policies, the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the federal government evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is “reviewing the charter and charge” of more than 200 advisory boards, committees, and other entities both within and outside of his department. EPA and Interior officials began informing current members of the move on Friday, and notifications continued over the weekend.

Pruitt’s move could significantly change the makeup of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises EPA’s prime scientific arm on whether the research it does has sufficient rigor and integrity. All of the individuals being dismissed were at the end of serving at least one three-year term, although these terms are often renewed instead of terminated.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an email that “no one has been fired or terminated” and that Pruitt had simply decided to bring in fresh advisers. The agency informed the outside academics on Friday that their terms would not be renewed.

Glacier National Park, Montana

This basically puts industry in charge of the nation’s natural resources. Of course, you know what that means.  Get ready for massive amounts of pollution, depletion of forests and wetlands, and your basic toxic treatment of living things.  One thing about living in Louisiana that I’ve learned is how detrimental it is to everything when you let extraction corporations do what they want.  Then, there’s the chemical companies.  They don’t call that section of the state Cancer Alley for nothing.  We’re sinking into the Gulf because of the Oil Industry.  Our wildlife–including those we depend on for food and industry–is dying off and there are some nasty looking growths on people, animals and plants alike the closer you are to the companies’ operations.

“Today I was Trumped,” Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, tweeted, after learning of his dismissal.

Richardson says he and the other board members were expecting to serve another term — as their predecessors had. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” he told the Washington Post. It “just came out of nowhere,” he told Science.

The Board of Scientific Counselors is an 18-member board whose mission is to “evaluate science and engineering research, programs and plans, laboratories, and research-management practices of ORD [EPA’s office of research and development] and recommend actions to improve their quality and or strengthen their relevance to EPA’s mission.” (It’s not clear why six members of the board were allowed to stay.)
 When asked by reporters to explain the dismissal, EPA spokesperson J.P. Freire said the EPA wanted to make “a clean break with the last administration’s approach” and “expand the pool of applicants.” These advisers “were appointed for three-year terms,” he toldGreenwire. “They’re not guaranteed a second three-year term.”

By expanding the applicant pool, Freire likely means opening up the advisory board to more members of industry (it’s mostly been filled with people from academia).

 If this sounds familiar, it’s because in March, Republicans in Congress were calling to “reform” another EPA scientific board — the EPA Science Advisory Board.

That board is a larger, 47-person committee that provides analysis on EPA research programs and plans. The Board of Scientific Counselors, whose members were dismissed over the weekend, evaluates the rigors of the research conducted at the EPA. (Yes, there is overlap in the missions.)

Bison bison: Bison walking slowly through snow. Yellowstone National Park, WY.

A list of judicial nominees was dropped on the unsuspecting US population today.  I can only hope that Senators will pocket a good deal of them and they will never see the light of day let alone the inside of a courtroom.

Two of the nominees who will be unveiled Monday were on the list of Trump’s potential Supreme Court justices and will likely come under scrutiny by Democrats because of that inclusion: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who will be nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice David Stras, who sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is Trump’s pick to sit on the 8th Circuit.

Trump will name three other nominees to the appellate courts: Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th Circuit, John Bush to the Sixth Circuit and Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit. The president also plans to name four federal District Court nominees: Dabney Friedrich in the District of Columbia, Terry Moorer in Alabama, David Nye in Idaho and Scott Palk in Oklahoma, as well as Damien Schiff to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The list of judicial nominees was first reported by the New York Times, and confirmed to POLITICO by a Trump adviser.

Conservative allies of the Trump administration say White House officials have worked diligently since Trump’s inauguration in January to comb through suggested nominees, vet them and prepare them for nomination.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

You can read the NYT coverage by Adam Liptak here.

But liberal groups expressed alarm at the prospect of a federal bench filled with Mr. Trump’s appointees. “The Trump administration has made clear its intention to benefit from Republican obstructionism and to pack the federal courts with ultraconservatives given a stamp of approval by the Federalist Society,” said Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, referring to the conservative legal group. “We’ll be scrutinizing the records of these nominees very carefully.”

Sally Yates is testifying today before a Senate committee which could be a good thing.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is expected to deliver long-awaited testimony Monday afternoon before a Senate subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Yates was thrust into the national spotlight after she broke with President Donald Trump over the enforcement of his travel ban, an action which led to her firing in January. But since then, her profile has only risen following revelations that she said she forcefully warned the administration about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with a Russian diplomat weeks before Flynn was fired.

Just hours before Yates was scheduled to testify, former Obama officials confirmed to CNN that then-President Barack Obama warned Trump about hiring Flynn as his national security adviser in their Oval Office meeting November 10. The news was first reported by NBC.

And CNN also reported Monday morning that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Senate investigators that he had “brief interactions” several years ago with a Russian official he said was a “junior attaché,” even though US officials had suspected the official of spying on behalf of the Kremlin.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

So, here’s the disturbing thing about this.  Trump is tweeting actual threats against Yates.  This is really quite horrifying given he commands a white nationalist army of crackpots and malcontents that basically hate women.

President Donald Trump has drawn a lot of criticism for his decision to lash out at former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday, just hours before she was scheduled to testify about former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Appearing on CNN to talk about the president’s tweet — in which he said that someone should “ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council (sic)” — legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that Trump’s behavior crosses the line of what we consider to be normal behavior for a politician in the United States.

“It just shows how much the norms of behavior have changed,” Toobin said. “The idea of the President of the United States essentially threatening a witness, he’s basically accusing her of leaking, we have never had that before. We’ve never had presidents who did this kind of thing. The idea that the president — the guy who’s in charge of the Justice Department — is threatening a witness is really kind of disturbing.”

Yates was fired from her role as acting attorney general earlier this year after she refused to enforce the administration’s proposed travel ban. She will reportedly testify on Monday afternoon that she gave the Trump administration warnings about Flynn possibly being compromised by the Russian government.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Senator John McCain has taken the case for Human Rights to the NYT’s editorial page.  He actually attacks SOS Tillerson in the op ed.

Sen. John McCain slammed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a New York Times op-ed published Monday morning, accusing the nation’s chief diplomat of adopting a foreign policy that abandons both U.S. values and victims of oppression around the world.

McCain’s op-ed came in response to remarks Tillerson delivered last week to State Department employees, in which he said that “in some circumstances if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals.” Tillerson’s boss, President Donald Trump, has made a habit of offering warm words for dictators and political strongmen from around the world, including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don’t look to the United States for hope. Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it’s convenient, we might officially express that sympathy,” McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote. “But we make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You’re on your own.”

McCain needs to do more than write Op Eds and do the gamut of Sunday Talk Shows.  He needs to actually stop some of this shit from getting into law and some of the bigger shit piles do not need to be approved to be Cabinet Members or part of the Federal Government.

Well, hopefully, the pictures of our pristine National Parks from around the Country has put you in the mood to both visit them and defend them.  Just remember, the first shot in the Resistance was fired by a Friend of Smokey The Bear!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?